Rallying Around the Renegade
Heiko Wimmen writes in the Middle East Report:
Back in the fall of 2006, student elections at the American University of Beirut produced an unexpected aesthetic: female campaigners for the predominantly Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) of the ex-general Michel Aoun sporting button-sized portraits of bearded Hizballah leader Hasan Nasrallah on their stylish attire. “Hizballah stands for the unity and independence of Lebanon, just as we do,” went the party line, as reiterated by Laure, an activist business student clad in the movement’s trademark orange. “And imagine, the Shi‘a and us,” she mused, off-script and with a glance at her co-campaigners, covered head to toe in the black gowns of the staunchly Islamist party, but spiced up with bright orange ribbons for the occasion. “How many we will be.”
Just how many became clear soon enough, when Aoun joined Hizballah’s attempt to bring down the government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora through public pressure later that year. While actual numbers are notoriously hard to come by, the two main rallies held on December 1 and 10 clearly rivaled the demonstration that brought about the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon 18 months before. Followers of Aoun, who stand out in their blazing orange gear, accounted for an apparent third of the masses. Once again, predictions that Aoun’s alliance with the “Party of God” would dispel his support in the Christian community were proven wrong.